Archive-It at 10: Reflections from the 2016 Partner Meeting

September 21st, 2016

by Karl-Rainer Blumenthal

Archive-It Partner Meeting 2016

Web Developer Mouse Reeve and Web Archivist Jillian Lohndorf plot a course for Archive-It’s next ten years with partners in Atlanta.

ARCHIVES*RECORDS, the 2016 meeting of the Society of American Archivists (SAA) and Council of State Archivists (CoSA) has come and gone, and with it the annual meeting of Archive-It’s many partners and friends. Over 60 attendees, including partners, friends, and Archive-It staff, met for a day-long confab to learn about what web archivists  are collecting, their work with curators and researchers, and their innovation around  access and use of their collections. On the occasion of our 10th anniversary, the meeting also gave us at Archive-It the opportunity to reflect upon the progress that we’ve made as a community of practice and to highlight some of the technical developments and collecting themes that will define our future. (Presenters’ materials can be found here).

In many ways, the conversations at #ait16 reflected the state of the art as captured in the most recent National Digital Stewardship Alliance (NDSA) survey of web archiving programs (full report forthcoming!), as presented by Archive-It partner Nicholas Taylor of Stanford University to the meeting of SAA’s Web Archiving Roundtable later in the week. The web archiving community is maturing, developing important new skills, and pursuing further collaborations in order to solve shared issues with acquisition, access, and quality assurance.

Two partners, Northwestern University’s Laura Alagna and University of Iowa’s Daniel Johnson, capably illustrated the growing appreciation and subsequent expanding responsibilities of web archivists in academic libraries. Both institutions have archived their own institutional web presences for years now (University of Iowa was one of our first partners in 2006!), but only more recently turned to leveraging their tools and know-how to include more subject experts and stakeholder communities in their collection development. Jackie Rider, Archive-It partner from the Princeton Theological Seminary Library, brought these themes to life with an especially rich example from her own institution’s effort to document the lives and accomplishments of its heretofore underrepresented African American alumni.

Archive-It Partner Meeting 2016

Laura Alagna distinguishes traditional outreach from the “in-reach” that engendered subject specialists right within her library to build new collections on web-rich topics.

Of course growing collections and stakeholder communities increases the need to share resources widely and reliably. Three partners spoke to their own organizations’ experiences in this regard, each experimenting with a new model of access that meets their specific need. Greg Wiedeman of SUNY Albany demonstrated his use of the Internet Archive’s and Archive-It’s collection index (CDX) servers to populate university archives search results with archived pages from Albany’s web domain, a “large-scale, minimal approach” that he invites others to expand upon and refine. Megan De Armond, Web Archiving Technician with the New York Art Resources Consortium (NYARC), outlined the work to integrate web archives with more traditional media among the search results in her consortium’s multi-institutional discovery layer. And while web archives present their own unique challenges to such integrated discovery, George Washington University’s Rachel Trent revisited how different kinds of collected web resources challenge us to serve them all to patrons in the forms that honor their particular contexts. At GWU, Trent and team are experimenting with new service models that could combine their use of the Social Feed Manager tool,with the WARC files, crawling, and Archive-It’s Wayback interface.

While these presentations outline unique approaches or implementations, , the fact remains that the web archiving community supports and advances its work  through unending collaboration. Nascent and mature programs benefit alike from sharing resources, policies, and projects, as attested by Temple University’s Doreva Belfiore and Princeton University’s Alexis Antracoli, who updated the meeting on the early progress of Archive-It’s first formal network of local partners, in the Mid-Atlantic region. The Mid-Atlantic partners have now met three times, in-person and in hybrid live/online meetings, to share their best practices, questions, and ideas for closer collaboration. Nicholas Taylor delved further into one of the deepest wells for this kind of cross-institutional support, focusing on how we all can build more enriching collections by appraising and selecting resources in concert with one another’s collection development policies. At the other end of the web archiving life cycle, North Carolina State University’s Todd Stoffer advanced the discussion of how Archive-It partners in particular can help each other assure the high-quality representation of their collections by automating many otherwise manual processes of quality assurance, thus allowing curators to conduct high level appraisal and selection.

Archive-It Partner Meeting 2016

University of Scranton’s Kristen Yarmey recruits partners to share their strategies for collecting on- and off-campus news stories.

Archive-It’s Director, Jefferson Bailey, provided attendees with some perspective on the scale of the community’s accomplishments, highlighting the pilot partners who first joined the service in its kickoff year of 2006, and providing some stats and visualizations on the  diversity and magnitude of material that partners have collected over the years (over 16 billions URLs from over 1 million seeds totalling nearly 1 petabyte of data). Other recent Archive-It updates: Senior Program Manager Lori Donovan outlined ongoing enhancements to the Archive-It web application and Web Archivists Sylvie Rollason-Cass and Jillian Lohndorf introduced the new Help Center, videos, and forums for user knowledge sharing.

Archive-It Partner Meeting 2016

Discussion groups at tables and in corridors throughout the day revolved around themes of collection development, metadata standards, quality assurance, and ideas for enhancing the Archive-It web app and Help Center. With all of the creative ideas swirling, Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Program Officer Emily Reynolds highlighted upcoming grant funding opportunities in IMLS’s National Leadership Grants for Libraries and Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program.

Archive-It Partner Meeting 2016

The partners approve!

If you could not attend, or wish to revisit the presentation materials and discussions of the day, check out our new collection, Web archiving at Archives*Records 2016, which includes slides and social media feeds from the Archive-It Partner Meeting as well as other web archiving events throughout the week of the conference.